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“Because…” he said quietly, looking at his desk, “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? And in love?”
This quote, which occurs in Chapter 10, is from Park’s perspective. Mr. Stessman has asked the class why Romeo and Juliet has survived for four hundred years. Earlier, Eleanor claims that Shakespeare was making fun of Romeo and Juliet, and her interpretation is smart but cynical. However, Park speaks from the heart when he suggests that the play endures because it expresses real and universal emotions. Eleanor is used to hiding vulnerable feelings behind a deliberately prickly exterior, but Park teachers her that being open and sincere is another possible way to experience the world, and that letting others in might not be a bad thing.
In this conversation, Eleanor and Park are not just talking about Shakespeare. When Park says that everyone wants to remember what it’s like to be young and in love, he’s also trying to convince Eleanor that Shakespeare might not have been completely cynical, but rather that love is a real emotion. The quote foreshadows the relationship between Eleanor and Park that will unfold and deepen as the novel progresses. They’re not yet in a relationship, but Park’s response to Romeo and Julie helps plant the seeds for their togetherness.
Park’s sincerity in his interpretation of Romeo and Juliet impresses Eleanor.
Before class, Park had tried to ask Eleanor a question about a song title on her book, but Eleanor snaps at him. When Eleanor hears Park’s interpretation of the play, however, she realizes that Park has both an intelligent and a sincere side, and she thaws out a little, striking up a conversation with him that afternoon on the bus.